Brick Court Chambers

Social Responsibility & Diversity

Brick Court Chambers is a committed advocate of equality and diversity at the Bar. It is our unequivocal policy to treat everyone equally and fairly regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, identity or expression, marital or civil partnership status, political persuasion, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or gender, sexual orientation or social background.

Some of our initiatives and the projects we are proud to support are set out below.

In addition to these, Brick Court Chambers is one of six commercial sets that have jointly created a mentoring scheme to support and encourage individuals from all underrepresented groups to pursue a career as a barrister. Further details of the scheme are here.

If you would like to learn more about any of our work on equality and diversity, please contact our Equality and Diversity Officer, Sarah Lee QC.

     

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  • WHY WE ARE COMMITTED TO EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

    At Brick Court, we are proud to have clerks, staff, pupils and barristers (members of chambers) from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds, as well as those who are LGBT+ and those who are disabled. We are also proud of how many are women, at all levels of seniority. We were one of the first leading commercial sets to have a woman – Helen Davies QC – as joint head of chambers. A former member of chambers, now Mrs Justice Bacon, became a High Court Judge in 2020; the youngest woman ever to have done so.

    At the same time, we recognise that neither the Bar as a whole, nor our chambers, yet reflect the diversity of society more widely. Women, members of ethnic minorities, LGBT+ people and disabled people are still disproportionately under-represented. That is something that we are determined to do our part to remedy.

    We are very aware that such under-representation can deter some people from applying to us. That is a negative feedback loop that we are determined to break. It is one of the reasons that, on this page, we deliberately draw attention to the fact that we are a more diverse group of people than you might assume. Having said that, we recognise that we still have more work to do in this area, and we are committed to doing more.  We see this as a major responsibility that is owed to everyone in chambers, to our pupils, to all applicants for positions in chambers, to our clients, and to the profession at large.

  • ACTING ON OUR COMMITMENT

    Our commitment to equality and diversity at the Bar and within chambers means preventing discrimination, ensuring equality of opportunity, promoting diversity and supporting retention and progression of talent. It applies as much to all people who work in chambers – our clerks, staff and pupils – as it does to our members.

    In practice, our commitment has a number of aspects.

    First, it means taking positive steps to recruit people from under-represented groups and communities. We take this very seriously, and we have pursued a number of initiatives.

    • We are one of very few sets of barristers’ chambers to have a dedicated Equality and Diversity Manager. Angela Campbell assists and supports our Equality and Diversity Officer, Sarah Lee QC, and the committee of barristers and staff supporting her.
    • We conduct regular equalities monitoring to enable us to see what progress we are making in the recruitment of staff, pupils and barristers from under-represented groups.
    • We get involved – both individually and as a chambers – with wider initiatives to improve diversity in recruitment. For example:
    • We took the lead in developing a scheme, in collaboration with other sets, that provides individual mentoring aimed at encouraging people from under-represented groups to pursue careers as barristers. Sarah Abram was named Junior Pro Bono Barrister of the Year in 2021 in recognition of her involvement in the scheme together with other pro bono work she has undertaken.
    • We were one of the first two barristers’ chambers to become a Supporter of the Charter for Black Talent in Finance and the Professions, the first “Magic Circle” set to do so.
    • We are supporters of the FreeBar, the network aiming to foster inclusion and support for LGBT+ people working as and with barristers, and were the first “Magic Circle” set (and one of the first sets in any field) to sign up to its Charter.
    • We have signed up to the Bar Council’s Women in Law Pledge.
    • For our centenary year (2021) we have partnered with two charities Into University and the Sutton Trust both of which are active in addressing inequality of opportunity. In addition to fund-raising £200,000 in 2021 for them, we are working directly with groups of students they support, including via a three-day work experience programme developed with the two charities. In addition, we have produced a series of podcasts addressing access to the profession, and we co-hosted a debate with both charities to further the important discussion surrounding inequality in the legal sector.
    • We are supporters of the Bridging the Bar initiative. In 2021 we offered a number of dedicated work experience programmes to candidates recruited through its scheme.
    • Along with other members of Combar, we also support the Pegasus Access Scheme, providing mini pupillages to candidates recruited through that scheme.

    Second, it involves being concerned to ensure that work is allocated on a fair and equal basis both during pupillage and tenancy.

    Third, it includes removing disadvantages for staff, pupils and members of chambers in order to improve equality of opportunity as far as possible, for example by: making reasonable adjustments for disabled individuals; adopting fair childbirth and parental leave policies; and giving people the freedom to work flexibly to enable individuals to manage their family responsibilities, or a disability, without having to give up work.

    Fourth, it means developing and adapting E&D policies, anti-harassment policies and recruiting practices and keeping them under regular review:

    • We have for some years now deliberately gone beyond the requirements of the Equality Act, by adopting a wider set of protected characteristics than those under the Act in our E&D policies. It is chambers’ express policy that nobody can be treated less favourably because of their age; disability; gender identity or expression (including gender reassignment and sex within the meaning of the Act); marital or civil partner status; political persuasion; pregnancy or parental status; race (including colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origin); religion or belief; sexual orientation; social background; or any other irrelevant or irrational criteria or circumstance.
    • We regularly update our policies on equality and diversity issues (all of which are available in this section of the website) to provide better protection in some of those respects (described in more detail below), offer clearer and more detailed guidance, and ensure that anyone with a concern has a choice of people they can raise it with.
    • We ensure that our recruiting processes, including the basis on which we make decisions about pupillage and tenancy, are objective, transparent and fair and that they promote equality of opportunity and our criteria are set out for pupils. We also make sure that clerks, staff and recruiters are familiar with the principles of fair recruitment. More information on these topics is available on our pupillage and tenancy pages.
    • We also undertake internal training programmes, conducted by external advisors, in relation to harassment and bullying.

    We are always striving to do more, and to build on our existing equality and diversity foundations. If you would like to get in touch about any of our work on equality and diversity, please contact our Equality and Diversity Officer, Sarah Lee QC, or our Equality and Diversity Manager, Angela Campbell.

  • EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES

    We are dedicated to achieving equality of opportunity.

    When recruiting – whether for pupils, established practitioners, clerks or staff – we welcome applications from talented people, whatever their backgrounds. We particularly encourage applications from groups that are under-represented in our areas of practice and within our chambers, including women, members of ethnic monitories, people who are LGBT+ and people with disabilities.

    In addition to our commitment to equality of opportunity, we are determined to treat everyone equally and fairly. All candidates for pupillage and tenancy are assessed on merit in accordance with that commitment.

    Equality of opportunity is not only an issue at the recruitment stage. We are equally committed to offering opportunities for gaining experience, career progression and practice development to all pupils and members of chambers equally and without discrimination.

    We take these commitments very seriously. We hold equality and diversity training sessions, conducted by external advisors, for all members and employees involved in pupil selection and assessment, and all employees involved in the allocation of work. We also hold specific training in fair selection and recruitment methods periodically for members of chambers involved in selecting candidates for interview, or interviewing candidates, for pupillage or tenancy and we will continue to do so.

  • PARENTAL LEAVE AND FLEXIBLE WORKING

    Nobody should have to choose between a successful professional life and a full and rewarding family life. Many at Brick Court combine both, with great success. We are particularly proud that all of our female members with children have remained in practice at Brick Court chambers. We believe that this reflects, not only our specific, generous policies, but also, and more generally, a supportive and family-friendly attitude in chambers.

    We are keen to work with clients on initiatives for those planning for and returning from parental leave, and encourage dialogue in that respect.

  • DIGNITY AT WORK

    We are determined to provide a work environment in which all can flourish and in which individuals, clients and the public are treated with dignity and respect. Our Dignity at Work Policy sets out detailed guidance on how we combat harassment, bullying and inappropriate behaviour, both within and beyond chambers. We conduct internal training, provided by external advisors, to support that guidance.

  • GENDER EQUALITY

    We have a strong proportion of female members of chambers, at all levels of seniority. We are signatories to the Women in Law Pledge.

    We have also spearheaded in recent years an initiative to recruit more women in our field, working in collaboration with the other leading commercial sets (Essex Court Chambers, Fountain Court Chambers and One Essex Court). Two successful events took place in Oxford and Cambridge universities with remarkable turnouts at each. Laura Newton spoke on the panel in Oxford, chaired by Mrs Justice Cockerill DBE; and Brick Court’s joint head of chambers, Helen Davies QC, chaired the panel of speakers in Cambridge and chambers’ efforts have been reported in The Times . Further events at other academic institutions are planned for the future and Zahra Al-Rikabi spoke at the London event in December 2021.

    Members of chambers frequently speak on the issue of gender equality at the Bar, including at the Temple Women’s Forum, the International Women’s Conference and Cambridge Women in Business. A number of members of chambers act as mentors for women at the Bar through various programmes, including that designed to mentor under-represented groups, as well as informally.

    Members of chambers work on cases involving women’s rights. For example, Jennifer MacLeod was named Young Pro Bono Barrister of the Year at the 2019 Advocate Pro Bono awards in recognition of her “extraordinary commitment to improving women’s rights” She has acted pro bono for individual victims of violence against women in both the domestic and international courts, as well as conducting litigation on behalf of women’s rights organisation in the UK and beyond.

  • RACE EQUALITY

    We are proud to have staff and members of chambers from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds at all levels of chambers, and we welcome applications to chambers from talented lawyers of all ethnicities. However, we recognise that Black and other minority ethnic lawyers are significantly under-represented within chambers and across the Bar in our areas of practice, and that it is important to attract more such lawyers of talent who wish to pursue a career in our field. We recognise that there is an intersection between issues of racial equality and social mobility, and we participate in various social mobility schemes to improve access to our profession.  We also recognise, however, that racial equality and social mobility are not the same, and that discrimination can be suffered by people of different racial and ethnic heritage, whatever their social background. In addition to the various social mobility schemes in which we participate, we keep our recruitment procedures, working practices and arrangements under active review to see how we can better address both problems.

    We were one of the first barristers’ chambers to become a Supporter of the Charter for Black Talent in Finance and the Professions at the end of 2020. The Charter was developed by one of our own Queen’s Counsel, Harry Matovu. Harry was nominated for Outstanding Contribution to Diversity and Inclusion at the Chambers Bar Awards 2021 and for the Lawyer of the Year (Chambers) and Chambers Diversity & Inclusion Initiative at the UK Diversity Legal Awards 2021.  He has also been included in the Powerlist honouring the most influential men and women of Black heritage in the UK for two years in a row, partly in recognition of his work as founder and principal of the Charter.

  • LGBT+ EQUALITY

    We welcome LGBT+ applicants, and are proud to have several LGBT+ people in chambers (including Fred Hobson, Crawford Jamieson, Emma Mockford and Max Schaefer, among others). We were an early signatory to the FreeBar Charter, which aims to promote best practice in LGBT+ inclusion.     

    We use gender-neutral language across the materials we produce as a chambers, and for our internal rules and policies, and respect everyone’s choice of their own pronouns. We have a Transitioning at Work policy in place.

    Several members of chambers work on cases involving LGBT+ rights, both domestically and abroad (including with the Human Dignity Trust). 

  • SOCIAL MOBILITY

    We are committed to a socially diverse Bar. Our members of chambers come from a wide range of backgrounds, and our Equality and Diversity Policy specifically includes social background as a protected characteristic. Our social-mobility initiatives, as both chambers and individuals, include the following:

    • We took the lead in developing a scheme, in collaboration with nine other sets, that provides individual mentoring aimed at encouraging people from underrepresented groups to pursue careers as barristers. For more information, see our pupillage page, under “Mentoring”.
    • We host an annual Student Open Day to enable students to learn more about life at the Bar. For more information, see our pupillage page, under “Student Open Day”.
    • We regularly offer work experience to students participating in the Bar Council’s Social Mobility Placement Scheme which seeks to encourage diversity and social mobility in the profession.
    • Along with other members of Combar, we also support the Pegasus Access and Support Scheme, providing mini pupillages to candidates recruited through that scheme
    • For our centenary year (2021) we have partnered with two charities Into University and the Sutton Trust both of which are active in addressing inequality of opportunity. In addition to raising £200,000 in 2021 for them, we are working directly with groups of students they support, including via a three-day work experience programme developed with them. In addition, we have produced a series of podcasts addressing access to the profession, and co-hosted a debate with both charities to further the important discussion surrounding inequality in the legal sector.
    • We participate in Bridging the Bar.
    • We support the Young Citizens Mock Trial competitions by providing bursaries and have attended events and provided judges for competitions and mentors.

    Helen Davies QC, joint head of chambers, is the Vice Chair of the Inner Temple Outreach Committee, which is responsible for the Inner Temple Pegasus Access and Support Scheme (PASS). Other members of chambers and staff are involved in the Social Mobility Business Partnership, the Inner Temple Schools Project and the Sutton Trust Pathways to Law programme. Each of these initiatives seeks to give high-achieving state school students information about and experience of the Bar. Many members of chambers also individually mentor and sponsor aspiring barristers.

    For more information, see also our social responsibility page.

  • OUR EQUALITY & DIVERSITY DATA

    In accordance with the requirements of the Bar Standards Board, we conduct surveys in order to collect and publish equality and diversity data in respect of our workforce (both barristers and non-barristers). These surveys assist chambers generally in monitoring the success of their equality and diversity policies. Chambers are also required to publish summaries of the data collected, to help provide transparency in recruitment and encourage diversity in the profession. Our most recent survey was conducted in 2019.

  • Equality policies